28 February 2007

The Stonewall Procession - From Rail to Water - Lynchburg's Tribute to a Fallen Hero

  • A Historic Reenactment, Saturday May 12th, 2007.
  • Friday, May 11th 6:00 PM Dinner with artist Mort Kunstler & author Rod Gragg
  • The Grand Lobby, Demoss Hall Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia. $55.00 each
  • Proceeds of this evening will benefit the packet boat Marshall preservation through the Lynchburg Historical Foundation and the National Civil War Chaplains Museum and Research Center.
  • The Lynchburg Print "Bringing Jackson Home" will be unveiled at this dinner.
  • Saturday May 12th 10:00 a.m. -4:00 p.m. Mort Kunstler and Rod Gragg print and book signing 1:30 -Memorial procession of General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson through Lynchburg
  • Sunday May 13th Church service (time TBD)
  • Other activities: Civil War Encampment -Sutlers -Children's activities -Bus tours to Historic Sites These times are approximate and may change
  • Re-enactment questions: Kenny G. Rowlette at kgrowlet@liberty.edu Phone: (434) 582-2087 Additional information: Lynchburg Historical Foundation - Phone: (434) 528-5353 lynchburghistoricalfoundation.org
Mayors proclamation May 13, 1863 ~ "It having been announced that the remains of the lamented General Thomas J. Jackson will reach this city by the Orange and Alexandria train this evening at 6:30 o'clock, on their way to Lexington, the home of the deceased, for interment, it seems befitting the mournful occasion, as a mark of respect for the great man fallen, that business of all kind in this city be suspended, and business houses closed at 5 P.M., that minute guns be fired, and bells of the churches tolled."

27 February 2007

Stonewall Jackson: His Fight Before The War

Update on the Jackson documentary from Franklin Films:

"Our crew will again travel to Virginia and West Virginia this week for another round of filming on our Stonewall Jackson documentary. We are in the early stages of post production on this project and expect to release it by early summer. Below are several photos from our recently completed production trip."

26 February 2007

Breaking News

The Sons of Confederate Veterans wishes to enter into negotiations with the Museum of the Confederacy to purchase the museum and place it in the control of the SCV . . . more at 11. :)

Latest Poll Numbers

Should the Museum of the Confederacy be renamed?
Yes 70 2%
No 2527 96%
Unsure 19 0%

As of 26 February, 2:30 PM. Not scientific, to be sure, but we can at least see where the passion is.

25 February 2007

Comments From the Deep South

I recently received the following comments from a reader who hails from the real deep South - Cuba!

Mr. Williams:

I came to New Orleans from Cuba in 1964 and I consider myself a friend of the South, I have some relatives in and around Lexington, Virginia and have visited General Jackson's grave. I have also visited other war sites and battlefields. By the way, there are several Cuban connections to the Confederacy here in New Orleans ; Prof. Antonio de la Cova has written about them . . . I am delighted to know that you are related to Pastor Roger Williams.

I read everything (about Stonewall Jackson) and since I already liked General Jackson, your book added many beautiful details about his life. I hope many people will read your book, it has another side and story that must be told. Soon after coming to the USA I became interested in Southern history and I knew that there was more to what I was told in the schools.

May God Bless you and your work.

Jorge Maspons
New Orleans, Louisiana

24 February 2007

Book Reviews

In today's Washington Times Civil War column, I review two recent books which take a non-conformist view of two war related issues: The treatment of prisoners and slavery.

23 February 2007

The Robert E. Lee Memorial Commission of the Commonwealth of Virginia

Yesterday, the Virginia General Assembly approved a resolution honoring Robert E. Lee. The text of the resolution is below. We owe a great deal of gratitude to Senator Emmett Hanger and Delegates Benjamin Cline and Christopher Peace for sponsoring the resolution and for the dedication of those who served on the Robert E. Lee Memorial Commission. Although the commission's term is expired several events throughout the year to honor the 200th Anniversay of Robert E. Lee's birth have yet to occur, so the year of Lee continues. I would encourage readers to visit the website of the commission.

Offered February 19, 2007
Commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Lee.
Patrons-- Cline and Peace; Senator: Hanger

WHEREAS, Robert E. Lee was born to Revolutionary War hero “Light Horse Harry” Lee and Anne Carter Lee at Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County, Virginia, on January 19, 1807; and

WHEREAS, Robert E. Lee attended West Point Military Academy where he graduated second in his class without receiving a single demerit; and

WHEREAS, on June 30, 1831, Robert E. Lee married Mary Ann Randolph Custis, the only daughter of George Washington Parke Custis, the grandson of Martha Washington, and the adopted grandson of George Washington; and

WHEREAS, Robert E. Lee served in the United States Army for nearly 32 years and was offered the command of the Union Army at the outset of the Civil War; and

WHEREAS, after suffering through a great deal of internal conflict, Robert E. Lee chose to link his fate to his native Virginia, stating that he could not “lift his hand against his own people”; and

WHEREAS, Robert E. Lee assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia in the Confederate capital of Richmond on June 1, 1862; and

WHEREAS, following the collapse of the Confederate States of America, Robert E. Lee encouraged the people of the South to “abandon your animosities, and make your sons Americans”; and

WHEREAS, Robert E. Lee accepted the position of president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, where he strove to improve the plight of the war-ravaged South through economic prosperity enhanced through education; and

WHEREAS, one of Robert E. Lee’s greatest contributions to higher education may be his consistent and often stated emphasis on individual honor exemplified by his statement that “We have but one rule, and it is that every student is a gentleman”; and

WHEREAS, Robert E. Lee’s insistence on personal honor developed into the Washington and Lee University Honor Code, which is still among the strongest in the our nation today; and

WHEREAS, Robert E. Lee’s commitment and strength of personality is considered to have led to both increased philanthropic support and increased student enrollment from northern states and to have laid the foundation that transformed Washington College into a modern university; and

WHEREAS, Robert E. Lee sought public funding for higher education and petitioned the Virginia General Assembly in December 1865 for support for professorships in diverse fields of study, such as chemical engineering, physics, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, modern languages, history, and literature; and

WHEREAS, in 1869, Robert E. Lee obtained funding for and purchased significant amounts of scientific equipment for Washington College to further his vision of practical educational courses for students; and

WHEREAS, as an educator, Robert E. Lee’s vision and foresight led to the implementation of business courses and a proposed curriculum for a School of Commerce, which at the time, was a new educational concept; and

WHEREAS, Robert E. Lee’s innovations in higher education also included incorporating the study of law into the courses available for students enrolled at Washington College; and

WHEREAS, in spite of public criticism from the established media, under the guidance of Robert E. Lee, Washington College began offering the nation’s first higher education courses in journalism; and

WHEREAS, Robert E. Lee had further ambitious plans for Washington College that would have included a School of Agriculture and School of Medicine that were left unrealized upon his untimely death; and

WHEREAS, Robert E. Lee died on October 12, 1870, in Lexington, Virginia; and the 200th anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s birth occurred on January 19, 2007; and

WHEREAS, Robert E. Lee stated that “Every one should do all in his power to collect and disseminate the truth, in the hope that it may find a place in history, and descend to posterity”; and

WHEREAS, the celebrations, forums, special resources for the public schools, and promotion of tourism of historic sites related to Robert E. Lee will bring nationwide attention to the legacy of Robert E. Lee and the Commonwealth; and

WHEREAS, the Virginia General Assembly previously established the Robert E. Lee Memorial Commission of the Commonwealth to plan for the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Lee; and

WHEREAS, members of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Commission of the Commonwealth have fulfilled their mission by establishing a website, by preparing a brochure for distribution, and by encouraging the listing of the Lee Memorial in Richmond, Virginia, on the national register; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, That the Joint Subcommittee to Coordinate the 200th anniversary commemoration of the birth of Robert E. Lee be applauded for the effort and commitment of its members; and, be it

RESOLVED FURTHER, That the many and varied historic sites and organizations, including Stratford Hall, Washington and Lee University, the Robert E. Lee Memorial Association, the Confederate Memorial Literacy Society, the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Virginia Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy that provide educational programming on the life and times of Robert E. Lee be urged to provide links to their celebratory events schedule on the RELee2007.com website developed by the joint subcommittee in order to provide easy access for scheduling by Virginia residents, school students, and tourists; and, be it

RESOLVED FURTHER, That Virginia residents, school students, and tourists be encouraged to visit the Lee Memorial on Monument Avenue in Richmond, which is not only a Virginia historic resource but also listed on the national register as kept by the National Park Service; and, be it

RESOLVED FURTHER, That the General Assembly acknowledge the diverse historical personages, places, and events that shaped our Commonwealth and in great measure shaped our nation; and, be it

RESOLVED FURTHER, That the General Assembly concur with Robert E. Lee that it is important that Virginians strive to “collect and disseminate the truth, in the hope that it may find a place in history, and descend to posterity”; and, be it

RESOLVED FINALLY, That the Clerk of the House of Delegates prepare copies of this resolution for presentation to the family of Robert E. Lee and to members of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Commission in order that future generations may be educated about the life, values, and accomplishments of Robert E. Lee.

22 February 2007

On to Gettysburg

I received a surprise phone call and invitation yesterday to speak at Gettysburg's 10th Annual History Meets the Arts Festival. I was not familiar with this event, but I've learned that the 3 day festival is very popular and includes presentations by artists, sculptors, living historians, reenactors, musicians, craftsmen, and authors:

"A celebration of all the arts… held among the charming historic streets of Gettysburg… surrounded by the beautiful, sacred grounds of the Gettysburg Battlefield. More than 50 events throughout the historic downtown including artist receptions, exhibits, book signings, historic tours, living history, period music and more. Come see art created before your eyes, or meet authors at exclusive book releases, talk to historians, and watch artisans create historically accurate pieces. All periods of history and all styles of visual and performing art are explored through this vibrant festival. 'The largest gathering of historical artists in the country.' Festival headquarters are located at the Historic Gettysburg Hotel, One Lincoln Square."

I will be speaking at 6 PM on Friday, April 13 at the historic Gettysburg Hotel (Pictured above). I will also be doing a book signing on Saturday. I love visiting Gettysburg and am looking forward to the trip as its been several years since I've been there.

20 February 2007

The Superiority of the Southern Horseman

Following up my previous post on the Southern Outdoorsman, it is worth noting that the culture of the South has always fostered a more militaristic populace, even today. Many observers from outside the region do not understand this fact. Yet this is evidenced, in part, by the fact that the majority (in contrast to other regions) of enlistees in the Armed Forces continues to come from Southern states and that the support for the United States military is most fervent in the South. A 2005 Dept. of Defense study confirms this fact. The kindred spirit Southerners have for the military was also obvious during the WBTS.

One anecdotal piece of evidence is the comparison of sacrifice between the University of Virginia and Harvard during the war. At the end of the war, UVA could claim that 503 of its alumni had died fighting for the Confederacy. By comparison, the much larger student body of Harvard would sacrifice one-hundred seventeen for the Union.
Of course, no disrespect is intended toward the many patriotic men from all sections of the country who have served and do serve now. I have ancestors from the Northeast, as well as the South, who have fought bravely in all of America's wars. But there is no denying the different attitudes toward militaristic associations. There are a number of reasons for this; many of them explored in great detail in Virginia Senator Jim Webb's excellent book, Born Fighting.

There are also a number of manifestations of this fact. One which continues even to this day is the love of the outdoors and horsemanship. Though I've never been an avid horseman, I have been around horseflesh most of my life and have found myself "in the saddle" on a number of occasions. My daughter currently owns 2 horses and my son and his wife have 4. My son is also a farrier and rides rodeo. I know a little bit about these splendid creatures.

During the WBTS, it soon became obvious that Southerners were superior horsemen. Why? The following narrative was written by the eminent Virginian historian, Philip Alexander Bruce in 1916. It explains this superiority in horsemanship and affection toward military service.

Still more productive of a bold spirit and vigorous frame was the sport of fox hunting, which was popular in all parts of the South with every class in the community. The wild gallop with horns and hounds over the rough face of the country, with its hills and valleys, bare fields, and thick woods; the continuation of the pursuit from the gray of the morning until a late hour in the night, and its frequent resumption at dawn for a second day’s run; the indifference to the character of the weather in the enjoyment of the sport- all this was excellent practice for fitting the young men for the requirements of service in the cavalry.

The universal love of the horse in the South, and its constant use for recreation or display, was also promotive of the military spirit. As from childhood almost every boy knew how to shoot a gun, so from the time he had the length of leg to bestride a saddle, he was able to ride. While still a little fellow, he would perch up behind the negro stableman when the horses were taken to water in the morning or at night; and he soon acquired sufficient confidence to ride his own pony, the first step to mounting a larger animal.

Before the Civil War, most of the Southern boys obtained the rudiments of their education in what was known as the old field school because situated in some retired spot equally distant from the different homes in the neighborhood. Very often, the only way of reaching this school was by a narrow bridle path through the woods. Hither came the boys on horseback five mornings of the week in all sorts of weather, at every season of the year; nor were they always content to let their steeds walk or jog quietly along- many a race was run under the bower of forest leaves, in which skill was necessary to avoid the trunks of trees that sprang up along either side of the way.

There were numerous other opportunities of becoming proficient in the art of riding; every Saturday was a holiday, and from morning until darkness came on, the boys were using their horses either in hunting in the fields and forests or in travelling to some distant mill-pond famous far and wide for perch and mullet. Every one of them looked upon himself as fully able to break in a young colt however raw and fractious it may have come from the pasture; and many a young fellow was seriously injured by his reckless indifference to the dangers of mounting such a wild beast before its spirit had been even partially broken.

This knowledge of horseflesh, this love of equestrian exercise, was never lost by the Southerner, however old he might grow. Though he might be poor in a property sense, it was not often that he did not own at least one horse, which served both as his helper in working the tobacco lots and cotton fields, and as his carrier in visiting neighbors, attending church, or moving about the countryside on business. He rode to the distant county seat to be present at the sessions of court; and it was on horseback too that he travelled to political barbecues and religious camp meetings. There was no public occasion in his life, indeed, which did not permit of this means of locomotion; in fact, at certain seasons of the year, the roads were hardly passable with ease except by persons on horseback; and this custom led many women to acquire the like skill so that they might not be impeded in getting about their neighborhoods.

The planters took great pride in the pure blood of their horses; skilled attention was everywhere given to horse breeding; and universal interest was felt in racing. Many large estates possessed a private course laid off with more or less exactness; there was a public track in nearly every county, crowds of people in attendance; while one of the principal features of every agricultural fair was the succession of heats run by horses that enjoyed a reputation for fleetness throughout that part of the South.

With all this knowledge of horseflesh and skill in horsemanship, was it strange that the Southern States should have produced so many brilliant cavalry leaders during the Civil War? The fact had been noted from the first years of the West Point Military Academy that the cadets appointed from the districts between the Potomac and the Rio Grande were especially proficient in horsemanship as a part of their course of study; and they were thus accomplished because they had been brought up to love horses and had become expert long before they were leaping the hurdles in the riding school on the Hudson. The cavalry was the favorite arm of the Confederate service; the arm which all would have preferred to join; the one arm for which even the soldiers in the infantry had been trained in the first great essential by constant previous exercise at their own homes. Wheeler, Fitzhugh lee, Hampton, Forrest, and Stuart were the most famous officers of the cavalry corps, but behind those gallant cavaliers, there rode thousands of men, not only fully as gallant as they were, but also from their earliest boyhood just as deeply versed in horsemanship.

(Painting by Mort Kunstler)

17 February 2007

The Southern Outdoorsman - A Great Tradition

Today I paid a visit to the 20th annual Western Virginia Sport Show in Augusta County, Virginia just a few minutes from my home. Even though I no longer hunt, (I do still fish quite a bit) I always find this show an exciting event. It is truly a slice of Southern culture and Americana at its very best! The jam-packed show promotes a wonderful family atmosphere with exhibitors ranging from conservationist organizations, to the NRA, to Crockett Creek Beef Jerky! (My favorite is the “Blazin Cajun”) Many of the booths offering guided hunting and fishing trips are businesses run by families with Mom, Dad, Son, and Daughter all helping out. There was even a fish pond with live trout for the youngsters and I had the joy of observing a young man grinning ear to ear as he jerked out a nice sized rainbow trout.

I used to visit this show each year with my sons, but as they are now grown, I’ve not been in quite a few years. Today my son-in-law and I spent several hours awe-struck at the exhibits, vendors, and the unbelievable high-tech gadgets used in many outdoor activities these days. One of the most interesting exhibits was On Target for Christ - a family run business promoting responsible hunting as family fun. We were spellbound by a video featuring owner Byron Tabor hunting game birds with a bow and arrow—that’s right, shooting birds in mid-flight. Amazing! The show always takes me back to my childhood and the hours my brother and I spent on Virginia rivers canoeing with our Father trying to hook that elusive "big one" or squirrel hunting in the forests of the Blue Ridge. The camaradarie and bonding that occurs between father and son while sharing time enjoying God's magnificient creation is something I would also share with my own sons. Unfortunately, this is becoming a lost heritage in our fast-paced world. Thankfully, some of that tradition is being carried on and promoted by the fine folks associated with this annual Shenandoah Valley event.

With spring just around the corner and, along with it, fishing season, I was also reminded of a piece I wrote for our local paper a few years back. This article spoke of this special bonding and fellowship that can occur between father and son at a place like no other - a quiet river bank. It was titled simply,


There are some activities that are naturally more enjoyable when shared between a man and his son. Here in the South, fishing or more appropriately, "fishin’," is one of them. I can remember the first time my Dad took me fishin'. It was on the Cowpasture River in Bath County. Dad sat me down on the riverbank with my Mickeymouse pole, patted me on the head and turned his attention to more important things.

How surprised he was when, within just a few minutes, I jerked in a nice sized rockfish bass! Ever since I experienced the thrill of battling, tugging and landing that first fish - I've been hooked. (Pardon the pun!) That was thirty-some years ago, but the memory, and many more like it, is still fresh in my mind. Like the many times my Dad, brother and I would take off on a Saturday morning and go "wet a line."

There are few things that can thrill a young boy's heart more than for his Dad to say, "Hey son, grab our poles, let's go fishin'!" Ah yes, the feeling is hard to describe. Fishin’ doesn't fit well with our hurried, worried society today. It has too many qualities and requirements to fit. First of all it takes patience to fish. Not many folks have that today! If you doubt me, hesitate at an intersection for a few seconds the next time a red light turns green! Fishin' takes time as well, something that is definitely in short supply these days! You can't push a few buttons and get results like I'm doing as I peck this article out on my PC.

But the rewards are innumerable. A greater appreciation for the glory of Creation, the opportunity to sit on a riverbank and reflect on life, counsel your son or just enjoy good conversation. I once heard a Christian man tell that one of the main reasons he became a Christian was because of the time spent with his father. He stated that it was while spending time with his father that he came to love his father's values, his father's way of life and his father's God. The quietness and solitude of a Virginia riverbank offers great opportunities to discuss with one's son the weightier things of life - family, commitment, faith and eternal values.

When my son was nine years old, I began promising him an overnight canoe trip down the Shenandoah. Every summer after that he would ask, "Are we going this year Dad?" Finally when he turned twelve, I decided he was mature enough and good enough with a canoe paddle to take the trip. My primary purpose in planning the trip was to discuss with Zachary the importance of remaining close to me during the teen years, avoiding peer pressure, of keeping himself pure (Yes, some still do that in these perverted times.) and remembering his Creator in the days of his youth.

We had one of the most enjoyable times I have ever experienced. Fellowshipping and fishin' with your twelve-year-old son - what could be better? I discovered Zachary was very receptive to my advice. Being alone with me on the river and realizing that I was willing to sacrifice three days and two nights just to spend time with him helped. As most Fathers desire, I wanted him to be just like his Dad; to love what I love and hate what I hate.

A couple of weeks ago, Zachary, his cousin Jesse and I went catfishin’ on the Middle River. We had a wonderful time and caught a nice mess of catfish. While we sat there on the riverbank with the summer night sounds of bullfrogs and crickets all around us, I recalled our trip down the Shenandoah and listened as Zachary and his cousin talked, thankful for my boy’s new-found faith in God and wondering how much of his Dad’s ways he would ultimately embrace. As my son flipped a perfect arching cast across the river, I watched as the bait caught the reflection of a moonbeam right at the apex of its flight. It was one of those magic moments that seem to freeze in time. As the bait ker-plunked into the murky water, my son remarked to his cousin, “Yep, I’m just like my Dad…”

I love fishin’.

(A needed footnote to my daughters: Yes, I also cherish the times I've taken you all fishin' as well . . . Josie catching the big sucker on the South River, Mollie catching a 5 gallon bucket full of smallmouth on the Cowpasture, Olivia jerking out the trout on the South River, and Megan not wanting to touch the "yucky" worms. Wonderful memories that I'll never forget girls, but, as you know, men are the better fisherMEN!)

16 February 2007

Don't Tread on Me

My friend, Harry Crocker, III, has written a marvelous and detailed history of the American Military. Don't Tread on Me: A 400-Year History of America at War, from Indian Fighting to Terrorist Hunting was recently reviewed here by former Virginia Military Instutute Superintendent, Josiah Bunting. I am now working my way through Harry's book and will post a complete review of my own in the near future. For now, I recommend General Bunting's enlightening commentary. Here's the opening paragraph which mentions my favorite living historian (and author of the foreword to my latest book), Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr. :

"ACADEMIA TENDS TO IGNORE military history and condescend to those who write it. It occupies a fugitive place in the curriculum, offered as an 'elective,' if appropriate professorial expertise is available. The discipline's thin cohort of teachers is rarely allowed onto the tenure track, and even more rarely granted permanent appointments. There are a few exceptions. King's College, London, has an undergraduate concentration in military history; Oxford its Chichele Professorship in the History of War; the University of Calgary -- Calgary! -- a strong program; a few others. Occasionally a professor earns a reputation both for meticulous scholarship and compelling narrative, a reputation of such consequence that his university is proud to proclaim his presence on the faculty: James McPherson, late of Princeton; James Robertson at Virginia Tech. But these men are exceptions."

15 February 2007

Stonewall Jackson & Samuel Davies: A Common Interest

The Reverend Samuel Davies died 246 years ago on the 4th of February, 1761. Davies and Thomas J. Jackson had a common interest in their respective gospel ministries. Jackson's Lexington Presbytery was taken from the Hanover Presbytery of central Virginia, arguably one of the most influential Christian organizations and regions of any in America’s Christian history. Founded by the Reverend Samuel Davies (known as “the Apostle of Virginia”) in 1753, Hanover was the mother presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the South. The Lexington Presbytery inherited a rich heritage from Hanover—that of teaching slaves and free blacks to read so they could be evangelized and converted to Christ. According to one scholar, “No white person in colonial America was as successful as Davies in stimulating literacy among slaves in the South.” Davies’s purpose in teaching blacks to read was more than utilitarian. “Davies as a Presbyterian believed that the attainment of true religion by anyone, bond or free, black or white, required extensive knowledge that came from not only hearing the word of God but also reading it.” Davies’s work among blacks “was the first sustained and successful program by a white clergyman in the South to stimulate large numbers of Africans and African Americans to read in English.” Davies, unlike many of his colonial contemporaries believed in the “full humanity of the African people.” In a 1757 sermon to slave owners, he proclaimed: “His immortality gives him a kind of infinite value. Let him be white or black, bond or free, a native or a foreigner, it is of no moment in this view: he is to live forever!” So successful were his efforts that James Davenport noted them in a letter to Jonathan Edwards, telling “of a remarkable work of conviction and conversion among whites and negroes, at Hanover in Virginia, under the ministry of Mr. Davies.”

One hundred years later, Davies’s mantle of success among slaves and free blacks would pass to Thomas J. Jackson. Jackson would continue his ministry; though threatened with jail. For a thorough treatment of Davies’s efforts, see Jeffrey H. Richards, “Samuel Davies and the Transatlantic Campaign for Slave Literacy in Virginia,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 111, no. 4 (2003). Quotes appearing in this post were taken from Mr. Richards's article.

13 February 2007

Stonewall Jackson: His Fight Before the War

Documentary Progressing Nicely

Wisdom on Writing History

  • "An endeavor worth a grown man’s time." ~ Shelby Foote
  • "Talent alone cannot make a writer. There must be a man behind the book. " ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • "Write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter." ~ Neil Gaiman
  • "The two most engaging powers of an author are, to make new things familiar, and familiar things new." ~ Samuel Johnson
  • "Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending." ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • "There are no dull subjects. There are only dull writers." ~ H.L. Mencken
  • "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader." ~ Robert Frost
  • "Writing a book is a adventure. To begin with it is a toy and amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him out to the public." ~ Winston Churchill
  • "The story is always better than your ability to write it. My belief about this is that if you ever get to the point that you think you’ve done a story justice, you’re in the wrong business." ~ Robin McKinley
  • "Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact." ~ George Eliot
  • "The scholar rarely writes as well as the farmer talks." ~ Henry David Thoreau
  • "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." ~ Apostle Paul, Romans 15:4
  • "It is history that teaches us to hope." ~ Robert E. Lee

10 February 2007

Amazing Grace, William Wilberforce, and Thomas Jefferson's Grandson

Several years ago, I wrote a piece for a Christian business journal about John Newton, the author of the most beloved hymn in the history of the Church : Amazing Grace. This month, a film will be released which tells the story of Amazing Grace, John Newton, and the man most responsible for the abolition of the slave trade in England--William Wilberforce. I would strongly encourage readers to visit the production's website. Spend some time there, watch all the trailers, view the resources, see who the film's partners and promoters are. Read about the ongoing struggle to eliminate slavery; something you hear very little about in America today. There is a wealth of information at this site and you could spend several hours exploring the links and fascinating story behind the hymn and the film. I can't wait to see the movie once it comes out on DVD.

The film tells the story of Wilberforce and how the influence of the gospel led him to introduce legislation in Parliament, year after year, to criminalize the slave trade. After many failed attempts, Wilbeforce finally succeeded when his bill passed on 23 February 1807, two hundred years ago this month. Our own Congress would follow suit in 1808. Slavery itself would not become outlawed in England until 1833. Much will be made of the 200th anniversary of Wilberforce's success, and rightfully so.

But England was not the first government in the modern world to criminalize the slave trade. That distinction belongs to the Commonwealth of Virginia, which outlawed the practice in 1778 twenty-nine years before Wilberforce's bill became law.

Virginia also passed legislation four years later in 1782 which encouraged emancipation. That legislation went so far as to require slave owners to support their emancipated slaves who might not be able to sustain themselves in a gainful occupation. The slavery question continued to come up for debate and public discourse until Thomas Jefferson’s grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, introduced legislation in the House of Delegates in 1832 that would have ended slavery in Virginia. He proposed an idea that had originated with his grandfather, a proposal that had been defeated by the General Assembly in 1779. Randolph suggested that every male slave born after July 4, 1840, be granted his freedom upon his twenty-first birthday. The legislation would grant the same freedom to female slaves upon their eighteenth birthday. Randolph’s bill was defeated by only a “small majority.”

In fact, the Reverend Randolph McKim (1842–1920), a Confederate chaplain and one-time rector of Christ Church in Alexandria, wrote in A Soldier’s Recollections that Randolph assured him in 1860 “that emancipation would certainly have been carried the ensuing year, but for the revulsion of feeling which followed the fanatical agitation of the subject by the Abolitionists of the period.” And although the bill was defeated, the Virginia legislature “passed a resolution postponing the consideration of the subject till public opinion had further developed.” An editorial in the March 6, 1832, Richmond Whig praised the legislature’s efforts and further noted: “The great mass of Virginia herself triumphs that the slavery question has been taken up by the legislature, that her legislators are grappling with the monster, and they contemplate the distant but ardently desired result [emancipation] as the supreme good which a benevolent Providence could vouchsafe.”

God works in amazing ways and in His own time.

09 February 2007

Selected Quotes from Ron Maxwell

"In the Gulag Archipelago Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, 'If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.' "

"Historians write about the forces of history, about ideology and determinism. Whatever truth there is in such analysis, it is not the place where individuals live out their lives. Ordinary people like you and me and the characters who inhabit Gods and Generals, Gettysburg or Amazing Grace live their lives day by day, hoping to make the best of it with dignity, trying to lift the suffering from the lives of others - one person at a time, sometimes hoping just to survive. They in their time, like we today, have bonds of affection across racial, religious, sexual, and political divides."

07 February 2007

Robert Krick to Deliver Banquet Speech at Stephen Dill Lee Seminar

Robert Krick will be the Banquet Speaker at the Stephen D. Lee seminar to be held on April 28, 2007, at the Key Bridge Marriott hotel in Arlington, Virginia. Robert Krick is an internationally respected scholar and considered by many as America’s greatest historian of the Army of Northern Virginia. Formerly the historian at Fredericksburg National Battle Field Park, Krick is in heavy demand as a lecturer on War Between the States topics.

The title of the banquet lecture is “Lee and the Historians in the Age of the Anti-Hero”. Krick
will tackle modern and false assumptions made by present day historians about Lee.

Krick joins such SD Lee scholars as Clyde Wilson, Thomas DiLorenzo, Don Livingston, John Dwyer, Tom Moore, and Kent Masterson Brown to make the SD Lee Institute in Arlington a can’t miss event.

Registration and hotel information for this event can be found at www.scv.org

"Anti-hero: principal character of a modern literary or dramatic work who lacks the attributes of the traditional protagonist or hero. The anti-hero's lack of courage, honesty, or grace, his weaknesses and confusion, often reflect modern man's ambivalence toward traditional moral and social virtues." - Columbia University Press Encyclopedia

06 February 2007

Teaching History

Mr. Ed Hooper has once again graciously allowed me to post a recent article he has written. It is well worth your time. Mr. Hooper is an award winning journalist, author, and historian. He currently works as editor of the Civil War Courier and the Camp Chase Gazette-- two of the nation’s oldest and largest national publications on the American Civil War historical community.

Teaching History 101: The U.S. Constitution

I was talking to a school group on the Civil War last year when a question regarding the Constitution came into play in the conversation. To further engage them, I asked the students to name the Amendments they felt were relevant to the war. The silence was deafening and the teacher informed me that the students did not study the Constitution as part of the course work for their U.S. history class.

Standard Operating Procedure for a speaker in that situation is to hold your tongue and move forward. A year earlier as President of the local Society or Professional Journalists, I led the organization in battling the Anderson County School System over the seizure of the Oak Ridge High School Newspaper by Principal Becky Ervin for stories that had been published on teenage pregnancies and tattoo art. Student editor Brittany Thomas and writer Krystal Meyers had returned to school that fall to find three of their classmates pregnant and decided to address the issue in the primary story the principal personally deemed “too controversial” to publish.

The seizure of the paper trumped the original stories they had written, in terms of controversy, and picked up ink and airtime across the nation. During the course of actions that followed, three of four rights guaranteed by the First Amendment were exercised by the students in the controversy – freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble, and the freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances. I did the talk radio circuit and was amazed at how, in the middle of this national story, a unique teaching opportunity blasted right by educators and school administrators, who were worried more about their public image than the lessons that could have been taught to the students about the Constitution. For me, that should have been the focus of the story or at least a good side bar to illustrate why it is important that all U.S. citizens, regardless of who or what they are, know it.

The National Constitution Center conducted a survey a few years ago that showed only 6% of the American people could name all four rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and it goes downhill from there. It is incredible given the fact that 56 percent of those surveyed attended universities, held a baccalaureate degree or were post college graduates. In fact, the lack of knowledge about the governing document of this nation has been called America’s greatest threat by NCC board members, senators, congressmen and other leaders across the U.S.

The document is the law of the land, but quick facts show the document itself is a story of this nation. Its 27 Amendments make it the shortest governing Constitution in the world. It marked the first time the phrase “United States of America” was used. The word “democracy” is never used. And Benjamin Franklin was its oldest signer at 81. He had to be carried in a sedan chair by four prisoners and helped up to pen his name. According to witnesses, it was the first time many had ever seen tears streaming down the elder statesman’s face. With this kind of material to work with, what grade school educator could not find it easy to teach? As of today, however, nothing has been done to address the issue in the classroom and questions regarding Amendments are not on skills tests required to graduate high school. It is imperative the Amendments of the U.S. Constitution be taught in grade school history classes.

One of the biggest myths in U.S. education is the idea that all public school students go on to graduate from a college, university or some other higher institute of learning. According to the last U.S. Census statistics, however, only a little more than 27 percent of Americans hold a baccalaureate degree. This means the only time most students would see Constitutional Amendments in action or learn about them are in grade school. Knowing the Constitution is an American life skill that every citizen within these borders needs to achieve before they are 18 years old. How many soldiers, sailors, and police cadets fresh from the halls of America’s educational system swear to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution from our enemies and scarcely know the document they are sworn to protect? At this moment and every day, hundreds, if not thousands, of newly naturalized citizens, however, are more knowledgeable about the Law of the Land than the average U.S. citizen. Any scholar who has studied history can’t help but draw correlations between the decline of ancient civilizations and modern-day America where the citizenry abandoned its founding principals.

This is the 220th Anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia. There will be media attention focused on the anniversary at some point during the year and this can provide an opportunity to stress the need for it being a part of the U.S. grade school curriculum. We waged war and defeated an empire to create it, waged war against each other in the 1860s to define it and have fought to preserve it from foreign tyrants ever since. It has served as the basis of constitutions for other nations who wrote their own trying to recreate the U.S. successes within their own borders. Most failed because of the inherent human temptations to harbor power that our forefathers resisted on principle, which is primarily why the U.S. Constitution stands alone in the annals of world history as a governing tool that knows no equal.

I have talked at length with educators about this subject as a reporter, media representative and as a historian. Many are on the pro-Constitution side saying knowledge of the document is as important as the three “R’s, but a large vocal number of educators and activists, who we hear, see and read in the media, have likened the controversy of educating students about the Constitution with teaching the Ten Commandments. Many of these teachers are the very ones who find ways to teach the same students the doctrines of environmentalism, which is a subject plagued with controversy and political overtones. This is a priority that must be put back in proper perspective and teaching the U.S. Constitution has to be a mainstay in history classrooms, especially if civics classes are to be forever regarded by the public school systems as an elective. This is dangerous. If the citizenry of a nation do not know and understand the laws that govern their rights and responsibilities, it is susceptible to losing them. It would be nobler for a civilization to lose those rights against an enemy on the field of battle than through the apathy of its people or the incompetence of its educational bureaucracy.

Ed Hooper - © 2007, used by permission.

05 February 2007

Civil War Lecture at Liberty University

African-American Troops in the Civil War: United States Colored Troops & Black Confederates @ Liberty University, 7:00 PM, Thursday, February 15, DeMoss Hall 1090, Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia.

Speaker: Kenny Rowlette, Associat Professor of English, Director, the National Civil War Chaplains Museum and Research Foundation. Free and open to the public. For more information, please call 434-582-2087.

(Pictured here is Jefferson Shields, of Lexington, Virginia.)

"One of Shields’s claims, among others, was that he was the first member of Jackson’s Sunday-school class: 'I was General Jackson’s first scholar. Somebody ought to write a history of Jackson’s Christian life, for he was the greatest Christian that ever lived. Jackson had a class of boys, about eighteen. Jackson kept me from swearing, and I had to go to the Presbyterian Church because I admired him so much.' " from Stonewall Jackson – The Black Man’s Friend, page 120)

Shields also claimed to have cooked for Stonewall Jackson, though no record exists to support that claim. He was, however,
a Private in Company H , Rockbridge Rifles, 27th Virginia Infantry Stonewall Brigade, and was a persnal body servant of Colonel James Kerr Edmonson of Lexington, Virginia. Edmonson was Commander of the 27th Virginia. Shields was often the honored guest at Confederate Veterans' reunions. It would be easy to speculate that the veterans exploited Shields’s desire for fame, but one could also conclude that it was Shields who actually gained the upper hand from this relationship, because his fame “assured him a comfortable income to the end of his earthly pilgrimage.” So comfortable, in fact, that he purchased a lot on what is now Davidson Street in Lexington and built a handsome brick home that still stands. Shields lived there with his wife, the former Mary McNutt, until his death in 1918 at the age of eighty-nine. The two were married by Stonewall Jackson's pastor, Dr. William S. White. Today, Shields and his wife rest in Evergreen Cemetery in Lexington.

03 February 2007

Another PC Attack and Cover of History

Click on this post title for a rather enlightening piece about the ongoing debate over the display of a historic cross at Wren Chapel on the campus of the 2nd oldest college in America--the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This particular paragraph is especially interesting:

"The Informer has invited President Nichol to oppose Mr. D'Souza and publicly defend his decision for the first time, but President Nichol ignored the invitation for nearly a month, having his staff repeatedly tell Informer editor Amanda Yasenchak that he was "unavailable" or "out of the office." On one occasion when his staff claimed he was "out of the office," eyewitnesses on campus confirmed to Ms. Yasenchak that President Nichol was in fact present in his office."

This type of conduct is, sadly, symptomatic of many of those enforcing politically correct dogma. Discrediting anyone who strays from their elitist orthodoxy is another common ploy. As I've argued in previous posts, the PC attack is not exclusive to things associated with the South and her heroes, though that is one of the favored targets. The revisionists want to erase, or discredit, all symbols, stories, heroes, etc., which are fundamental to the Nation's
Judeo-Christian heritage & foundation. This is just one more example of their insidious labors toward those goals.

02 February 2007

World Magazine Plugs Stonewall Jackson Book

I am most grateful that Marvin Olasky, Ph.D., made a positive mention of my book about Stonewall Jackson's black Sunday school class in the current issue of World Magazine. Marvin Olasky is Editor In Chief of World, a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, and author of 13 books.

THOUGHTS | February 03, 2007 World Magazine

New books challenge views of the past, assumptions about the future | Marvin Olasky

White Brits and Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries repeatedly struggled with issues explored in schools during February, Black History Month:

Richard G. Williams Jr.'s easy-to-read Stonewall Jackson: The Black Man's Friend (Cumberland House, 2006) shows how Jackson broke Virginia law during the six years before the Civil War by teaching slaves to read during a "Sabbath-school" school class. He also invited neighborhood blacks into his home for evening worship, even though the law banned all after-dark assemblies.

01 February 2007

Sic Semper Tyrannis

My hometown paper recently featured an op-ed piece supporting a bill that will allow Virginia’s governors to serve two **consecutive terms. Bad idea. Proponents of this legislation like to point out that Virginia is the only (eye roll please) state in the Union that still prohibits their governor from serving two consecutive terms. So what? If there is only one state in the Union with good sense, I’m honored that it happens to be Virginia. When looking at Virginia’s many positives: job opportunities, business climate, bond ratings, tax policies, etc., this concern appears to be motivated by something other than “good government.” I suspect that most proponents want more power concentrated in the executive branch for other reasons; reasons that would not benefit Virginia’s citizens, but would benefit career politicians. My suspicion comes from my *own experience in government. As my grandfather used to say, “I smell a skunk.” This bill is a skunk.

A little history lesson will help us understand this so-called “anachronism.” This prohibition can be traced to colonial times when our Founding Fathers’ memory was still fresh regarding the heavy hand of King George, III. They had a healthy fear of placing too much power into the hands of one man for too long; and with good reason. This fear and distrust was expressed, along with a not so subtle warning, in the Commonwealth of Virginia's seal and flag. The seal shows Virtue, sword in hand, with her foot on the conquered form of Tyranny, whose crown lies nearby. The seal was the design of George Wythe. Wythe signed the Declaration of Independence and taught law to Thomas Jefferson. These men wanted Virginia to be governed primarily by a “citizen legislature”, which is much closer and accessible to the Commonwealth’s citizenry. I can call—or visit personally—my state senator and delegate. I email them both fairly regularly and, in most cases, get prompt, courteous replies. Try that with the governor. The “continuity in office” that some supporters of this bill are concerned about is maintained in the legislature. The center of power in Virginia rests in our legislature and that is where it should remain.

Virginia’s governor appoints over 3000 individuals to various boards, agencies, and departments which all hold enormous and far-reaching power over Virginia’s citizenry. Many of these are subject to serve “at the pleasure of the governor” and, thus, are also subject to change with each four-year election cycle. This allows many Virginians with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and knowledge to serve in Virginia’s government. This regular turnover with fresh ideas and perspectives is healthy. Allowing governors to serve more than one term will “crown” them with more power and create much more cronyism and “career” types in our state government. This will encourage the likelihood of corruption and “staleness” in government. That’s the last thing we need. Doubt me? Cast your eyes towards Washington, D.C., but hold your nose as you do. Washington is full of career politicians from both parties—is that what we want in Virginia?

A powerful citizen legislature has many benefits for society. By serving part-time, our lawmakers must return to their districts and work and live among those whom they serve. They must live under and obey the same laws they pass and have to answer to the voters at each election cycle. They are much more likely to suffer swift repercussions for bad decisions. This dynamic actually transfers the power of government to where our founders intended it to be—in the hands of citizens. The governor’s position is, by necessity, a full-time position. He is much more isolated and insulated from Virginia’s citizens and more influenced by political hacks, regardless of party affiliation. Most of Virginia’s governors in recent years have also had their eyes on higher office making them weigh their decisions with those aspirations in mind—instead of what’s best for the Commonwealth.

If you're a Virginian, tell your delegate and senator you trust them more than any governor and to vote no on this bad idea. It will inflate their egos and, if this bad idea is voted down, make you more powerful. Forget the crown, kill the skunk.

*(I served 12 years as a Magistrate for the Commonwealth of Virginia and four years as an appointee of former Virginia Governor, George Allen.)
**(They can serve as many terms as they can get elected to, just not in succession. In other words, take a break and go live under the various bills you signed into law--could be an eye-opener.)